McDonald’s announced today that it will acquire Apprente to bolster the fast food giants voice-based ordering capabilities. This is the second tech startup acquisition for Mickey D’s this year, and the Apprente team will form the basis of a new tech lab for the chain.
In the press announcement, McDonald’s described Apprente and how it will use the startup’s technology:
Apprente was founded in 2017 in Mountain View, California, to create voice-based platforms for complex, multilingual, multi-accent and multi-item conversational ordering. In McDonald’s restaurants, this technology is expected to allow for faster, simpler and more accurate order taking at the Drive Thru with future potential to incorporate into mobile ordering and kiosks.
The Apprente acquisition is part of McDonald’s ongoing evolution into more of a tech company. Back in March of this year, McDonald’s acquired personalization platform Dynamic Yield for $300 million to make its menus more Netflix-y with recommendations based on factors like the weather or current purchases. That technology is now deployed into more than 8.000 McDonald’s locations. Additionally, the chain was reported in June that McDonald’s was experimenting with robot-powered deep fryers and voice-activated technology at its drive thrus.
Major QSRs see over half their orders come via the drive thru, so it’s no surprise that area of fast food is a hotbed of tech activity. Both Clinc and Valyant AI are working on their own voice-tech solutions, and 5thru uses AI to that involves scanning a customer’s license plate. And while McDonald’s has certainly made the biggest strides of all QSRs in terms of adding tech to the drive-thru experience, others, including KFC and Dunkin’, are also experimenting with ways to speed up order times and upsell more customers.
Seeing this type of competition is most likely spurring McDonald’s decision to ramp up its own tech efforts internally. As such, the company also announced today that the Apprente team will be the founding member of a new group within McDonald’s Global Technology team called the McD Tech Labs based in Silicon Valley. The new lab will be going on a hiring spree to bring on engineers, data scientists and other technology related positions.